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Integrating the National Standards for K-12 Physical Education

This is an excerpt from Health and Physical Education for Elementary Classroom Teachers With Web Resource by Retta Evans & Sandra Sims.

National Standards for K-12 Physical Education

In 2013, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance - now named SHAPE America - Society of Health and Physical Educators - revised the National Standards for K-12 Physical Education. The standards now specifically address the concern for physical literacy across the nation by adding "The physically literate individual . . ." to the beginning of each standard. The National Standards for K-12 Physical Education are as follows:

  • Standard 1 The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.
  • Standard 2 The physically literate individual applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.
  • Standard 3 The physically literate individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.
  • Standard 4 The physically literate individual exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.
  • Standard 5 The physically literate individual recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.

Reprinted from SHAPE America, 2014, National standards & grade-level outcomes for K-12 physical education (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics), 12.

The National Standards are broad statements that are to be used across K-12 programs. To understand grade-level expectations, teachers should use National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education (SHAPE America, 2014), which documents grade-specific outcomes to help teachers sequence their curricula and address specific expectations and goals for students at each grade level.

The Grade-Level Outcomes outline these expectations for each physically literate student ending the elementary years:

By the end of Grade 5, the learner will demonstrate competence in fundamental motor skills and selected combinations of skills; use basic movement concepts in dance, gymnastics, and small-sided practice tasks; identify basic health-related fitness concepts; exhibit acceptance of self and others in physical activities; and identify the benefits of a physically active lifestyle. (SHAPE America, 2014, p. 26)

For all of the K-5 outcomes, see appendix B.

The concept of integrating physical education into the academic curriculum may seem a daunting task for classroom teachers. However, it is necessary, especially given that many students are kinesthetic learners (Hannaford, 1995). This chapter outlines these four steps for integrating physical education activities into the academic curriculum: (1) brainstorm integration ideas, (2) link physical education standards with academic standards, (3) develop grade-specific interdisciplinary activities, and (4) develop a plan to implement the activity. These steps will help you move from brainstorming general ideas to creating a plan to teach the activity in class.

Integrated Physical Education Lesson Ideas

PE Central has a section devoted to the classroom teacher and integrated lesson ideas ( With over 250 lesson ideas, this section is a great place for classroom teachers to go for ready-made integrated lessons.

Brainstorm Integration Ideas

The first step in this approach is to brainstorm ideas for how physical education can be integrated into academic subjects. Consider mathematics. Your goal is to identify ways physical education could support the acquisition of mathematics skills expected of your students according to the standards. This might include outlining shapes with a rope or with the body, tossing balls or beanbags at specific geometric shapes, or traveling in a specific pathway. Elementary students need to be able to count in sequence, skip count, add, subtract, multiply, and divide. You can use several physical activities in a mathematics lesson to help students with these skills. For example, the student could move to the number of claps or beats, count the number of times a target is hit, or use movement to answer math flash cards. Older elementary students can measure time spent on a particular activity or tasks, construct graphs showing changes in heart rate during activity, or use pedometer data to show movement counts of different activities as ways to meet the standards for measuring, graphing, and so on.

Integrating science and physical education in the elementary classroom is not hard to imagine. Physical activity addresses the systems of the body, and you can integrate the muscular and skeletal system easily through identifying muscles and bones used for activities. Involving other systems may require more setup. For example, you might do a physical demonstration of the cardiovascular system in which you use physical education equipment to create a course; students travel through the course like a drop of blood through the heart and lungs out to the body then back to the heart again. Another idea could be to illustrate the movement of the solar system by having the students physically moving like the planets would around the sun. You could also demonstrate Newton's laws of motion, bringing the laws off the pages of a book into real-life view with physical movement.

Integrating physical education with social studies involves more creativity. Some examples include performing historical dances or reenacting historical events. Memorizing states or capitals may be easier for students in an activity setting (e.g., naming the states in alphabetical order while jumping rope), and using pedometers in the classroom can help students walk across the United States without leaving the community.

The elementary English language arts curriculum offers an array of areas that can be integrated with physical education. Reading ideas include performing the instructions written on station cards, reading about famous athletes or favorite sports, reading and assessing partners using a checklist of cue words for skill performance, and acting out the content of a book while reading it. Integrating writing could include writing reflections or journals about physical activity experiences. Also, students could write reports about how to make healthy choices in nutrition and physical activities. For the speaking and listening part of the curriculum, students could give oral reports on various sport-related topics. Class discussions could include students sharing experiences with others in groups or in front of the class. You can integrate language skills into physical education through activities involving spelling words, sounding out syllables while dribbling a basketball, and acting out verbs.

See lab 9.1 to brainstorm ideas for how physical education can be integrated into mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies.

Link Physical Education Standards With Academic Standards

When the brainstorming activities are completed, teachers will then move to more specific integration by using the National Standards for K-12 Physical Education. This second step will connect a physical education standard with an academic standard that the students are expected to meet. One way to get started is to brainstorm ideas of how an academic subject area could integrate with the National Standards. For example, National Standard 1 states that a physically literate individual will demonstrate competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns. A language arts lesson could have the student spell words using large movements of the arms. A student in social studies could discuss the history and importance of fitness levels of men and women serving in the armed forces, demonstrating the knowledge and skills needed to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness, as required by Standard 3. Table 9.1 provides examples of how National Standards for K-12 Physical Education can be integrated with four academic subjects.

See lab 9.2 to integrate the National Standards for K-12 Physical Education with the core academic subjects (mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies). For states not using Common Core State Standards or for other academic standards, you can find state standards and courses of study by searching state websites for education standards.

Develop Grade-Specific Interdisciplinary Activities

Now that you have developed a lot of ideas about connecting the academic standards to the National Standards for K-12 Physical Education, it is time to address the Grade-Level Outcomes. The third step includes working on grade-specific interdisciplinary activities. When developing interdisciplinary activities, each activity should be detailed enough that anyone reading the activity can see clearly the integration of both the physical education standard and the academic standard. In other words, the activity should detail what the students will be asked to do in order to meet the outcome.

Here is an example of how an interdisciplinary activity can integrate a kindergarten math standard and a specific physical education grade-level outcome: Kindergartners need to be able to know number names and the count sequence to meet Common Core math standards for that grade level. A kindergartner also needs to be able to hop, gallop, run, slide, and skip while maintaining balance to meet the standard for locomotor skills. What sort of interdisciplinary activity can a teacher develop to help the young student meet both expectations? One idea could be to have the student count the number of hops it took to get from one spot to another. Another activity could be to draw the numbers from 1 to 10 on the floor and have the student say the number names as students skip over them.

Table 9.2 shows examples of how to develop interdisciplinary activities to integrate physical education and academic standards for various subjects and grade levels. For states not using Common Core standards or for other academic standards, you can find state standards and courses of study by searching each state's website for education standards. Another way to find state physical education standards is at From there, you can search for academic standards for the state.

See lab 9.3 to develop grade-specific interdisciplinary activities.

Develop an Integrated Activity Plan

The final step in this integration process moves the activity idea to a lesson activity. Choose one activity listed in the charts, and plan how to use the activity in a lesson. See the example of a kindergarten activity suggestion in the following chart.

The integrated lesson activity form is used for planning the activity. The activity form is similar to a class lesson plan, but it is shorter in duration because it only addresses one integrated activity that the classroom teacher can use to reinforce an academic lesson plan or to provide a specific brain break activity to help classroom performance. This lesson activity can take place in the classroom, or the teacher can take the students to an open space area outside the classroom.

Teachers need to create a name for the activity, then list the objective and standards that are addressed in the activity. For the kindergarten example, the physical education grade-level outcome addressed is related to locomotor skills, and the math standard is counting and cardinality. The specific lesson objectives are to practice locomotor skills while counting in a sequence and to practice locomotor skills on the letters of the names of numbers drawn on the floor. The name of the activity might be Locomotion Numbers. The teacher will need chalk or tape for numbers, and everyone will need to be aware of personal space so that students can move safely without running into each other. Finally, the teacher will plan how to explain the activity and organize the students and the event.

The following sample activity provides a model format for developing the activity plan that reflects this 15-minute lesson.

Locomotion Numbers



Target Objective

Practice locomotor skills while counting in a sequence. Also, practice locomotor skills on the letters of the names of numbers drawn on the floor.

Content Standards Applied

Equipment Needed

Chalk or tape for numbers

Safety Concerns

Awareness of personal space so that students do not run into other students

See lab 9.4 to develop an integrated lesson activity.

More Excerpts From Health and Physical Education for Elementary Classroom Teachers With Web Resource